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Pupil Referral Units

By: Jack Claridge - Updated: 1 Dec 2022 | comments*Discuss
Pupil Referral Units Pupil Referral Unit

Even in today's society - which is governed with the idea that every child is entitled to an education - there are some children who cannot be educated within the confines of an ordinary school environment.

To this end Pupil Referral Units exist and they do so to allow those children who cannot attend school for a variety of different reasons to have a chance to gain the same standard and levels of education as those children who attend normally.

A Pupil Referral Unit - or PRU - is in itself a school but operates outside of normal schooling and is designed to help those children who might not fit in to the normal school regime for a variety of different reasons.

Who Would Require Schooling at a Pupil Referral Unit?

The first thing to note about Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) is that they are not simply designed as a means of educating those children who are badly behaved or have been excluded from the normal schooling environment because of problems with their behaviour.

Indeed Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) offer the chance for children suffering from different backgrounds and circumstances to seek an education. Many of them may have (or may be):

  • Suffering from medical conditions
  • Teenage mothers
  • Pregnant teenagers
  • Autistic children
  • Children not yet allocated a school place

It is indeed important to note at this point that there are children who do suffer from problems with their behaviour who are taught within these Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) but it should be understood that they are not taught alongside those children who are not having difficulties of a behavioural nature.

What Can My Child Expect to Learn at a Pupil Referral Unit?

If you have a child that is being taught at a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) then he or she can expect to have a broad spectrum of learning before them. Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) however do not teach the entire school curriculum but aim to cover as much of it as is possible given the resources and manpower available.

You should reasonably expect that your child will be instructed in:

  • English
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • Information Technology (Computers)
  • PSHE (Personal, Social and Health Education

Many Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) often outsource certain lessons and it may be possible that if your child is being instructed at such a unit that he or she may have to attend a further education centre to be instructed in a particular subject.

Who Runs Pupil Referral Units?

Any local authority who feels there is valid reason to have a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) can set one up. They do not have to ask permission to instigate the setting up of a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) but they should have it registered with OFSTED (Office for Standards in Education) so that they can be inspected to ensure that what they do aim to educate their pupils in is done so to the highest standard possible.

Before a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) can be allowed to teach students it must first register not only with OFSTED (Office for Standards in Education) but also with the DCSF (Department for Children, Schools and Families).

How to Find Out More About Pupil Referral Units (PRUs)?

If you wish to find out more about Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) and in particular Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) in your catchment area then you should - in the first instance - contact your Local Education Authority (LEA) who will be able to provide you with the details of all Pupil Referral Units and also which schools allow students to attend.

You can also find out more by visiting the website of OFSTED (Office for Standards in Education) at www.ofsted.gov.uk

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Although PRUs are very much needed the LEAs are now using these schools for children that should be in special schools. I am fighting my LEA who wants my child to go to a PRU. My son has ASD and PDA he needs a school that offers security stability and can understand his needs . Putting my child anywhere on a short stay basis is ridiculous and he would not cope. PRUs are great in their own right but they should not be used for dumping grounds for children who have a need for long term special education. My child is not naughty he is quiet introverted and vulnerable and rarely leaves the house to put him in a PRU is a cop out and is down to finance. Unfortunately LEAs make their own rules and don’t care about children who they happily “loose “ if it suits them. They need shaking up as the system does not work and children are suffering because of their incompetence.
Bob mum - 1-Dec-22 @ 9:12 AM
Hi, Quick query, do we have the opportunity to chose which PRU the child goes to and can we chose what school they will be moved to after?
S - 8-Dec-20 @ 8:04 PM
my brother was permanently exuded from school after he has been in a p.r.u will he be able to go back to a mainstream school after a while
Liam Glennon - 8-Dec-20 @ 1:43 PM
Hi my son is 11. He is so negative about school to the point he acts out to try to go home. I can't take the calls to pick him up on a regular basis from school. My works is getting tired of this. He is so torn one day is good the next day not. So much negativity with school. He has been to 2 different pediatricians but there seems to be no issue . Is there a pupil referral school in Abbotsford?
Shell - 13-Oct-20 @ 7:26 AM
my daughter been in the pru for 14 months now not put a feet wrong in the pru do i have to find another school or the pru
pinky - 21-Sep-20 @ 11:58 PM
My son attends a mainstream school hes spent most of his first year in reception in a separate room with 2 tas hes awaiting diagnosis of autism, adhd , dld , sensory issues and looking into other things hes bin excluded once and not even allowed in at the moment due to risk assessment.The school did an ehcp review meeting last week and told the local authorities that they cant meet his needs but there saying due to his age and no spaces in any special school hes stuck there but he could end up permanently excluded and end up in a unit I really dont know what the best thing right now .
Jazz - 8-Jul-20 @ 8:11 PM
I have a 12yr old daughter was permenantly excluded for silly things like singing in class talking shouting out petty in my eyes prior to movi g to secondary school an academy she was never in trouble always getting awards then after the exclusion she's been sent to a pru that's when things have declined rapidly to the point of arriving home in a police car today. She is obviously trying to fit in but I can't allow it to get any worse what do I do.. Should I home school... Should I find a new mainstream school myself... I just don't know....
Chan - 15-Feb-20 @ 12:14 AM
Hi My daughter is almost 15 in a PRU for bad behaviour. Her behaviour improved then got worse again the longer she stayed in the PRU I want her out there. I cannot afford private schooling she is so talented in writing and poetry, her poems was accepted and they appear in a book, she beat 10 000 entries over the UK. Even in the PRU the teachers are always gushing over her writing and she has certificates at home. Please help
Vovo - 21-Dec-19 @ 12:01 PM
Hi, I’m in the same position with my son, he’s been off school since February this year following his decision to come off of his meds, he’s so much better to manage without them but school won’t support it so bit by bit it’s been easier for them to forget about him. I have been looking for courses he can do and I’ve requested it be paid for with funding he’s entitled to but never sees the benefit of. I have however experienced PRU for my daughter and obviously I had concerns but actually it was a caring small environment and tbh I get the fact that you worry about other kids there but if your child is being excluded already for behaviour then they’re already the same as the kids attending PRU those kids too were struggling and everyone deserves a chance. Actually the kids there were suffering from all kinds of problems they’re not bad kids and better they attend somewhere than not at all like my son at the moment. I found the kids there were supportive a lot of them there had parents who were dying or like my daughter her sister, my baby died, so they’re not all scummy kids!! Don’t knock it til you try it, it wasn’t the end of the world for my daughter in the end the staff were so caring and firm but fair and had time in small classes to give my daughter the support she needed to get through, she is now 16 and currently doing an apprenticeship and is excelling, I’m so proud and didn’t think we’d get there. She actually thanked the PRU and not the school when she left as the same with you they just don’t want our kids there. It’s hard but you’ll get there.
Sp - 1-Oct-19 @ 12:48 PM
My grandson goes to a really good school but his behaviour has gone from bad to worse in the last 12 months he is 14 on the verge of getting thrown out of school how can we get help for him .
Caro 99 - 20-Jun-19 @ 8:47 PM
My son had been excluded from his school he has bad behaviour problems we tried to speak to doctors and they did not want to know. He was sent to a re entry school and he really liked it here his behaviour improved alot... then he was sent to the Pru now his behaviour gets worse by the day since starting the Pru his attitude and behaviour is terrible. He says other kids swear and kick the teachers so it's ok. How do I get my child out this school as he is getting so bad.
Carley - 11-Jun-19 @ 4:21 PM
My daughter has been excluded for bad behaviour. She has been offered a place at a pupil referral unit but I don't want her to go there due to her vunerabilty and be exposed to other children's risks which I feel she will copy. Are there any other options for her
Lin - 14-Dec-18 @ 4:01 PM
My son is 11, asd adhd odd attachment disorder sleep disorder and lack of social skills. From the age of 7 he had been attending a independent specialist school. November last year, he was permanently excluding due to his level of melt downs and violence. We are in the process of transfer from S.O.E.N to EHCP. All assessments are now done apart from O.T . The education tried to get him tuition in a outdoor play area, which was so that when he gets anxious he could go and jump on the trampolines, however the tuition place said they could not take him, unless it was funded as a 2 to 1 ratio, for safety reasons. Now the education are trying to force me to send him to a pupil referral unit on a 1 to 1 basis. I am refusing, as I feel they can not meet his needs, and insisting they pull their fingers out and get his ehcp sorted, instead of fobbing me off. I really feel that forcing him into a written work learning place will do more harm than good. His educationpsycologist report makes it extremely clear that his learning must be play based. Can the education force me to send him to the P.R.U whilst we are waiting?
Aisha - 26-Sep-18 @ 3:31 PM
Hi my son is 14 and is in his last chance in school, I have found a academy unit to put him in but the school said they cannot fund it, where do I go from this as I don’t want him to be expelled he’s a good kid in top sets but has a terrible attitude.
Bec22 - 5-Jun-18 @ 9:13 PM
DB - Your Question:
My daughter is in year 11 and has just been permanently excluded and her exams are in may. What is my next step

Our Response:
You’ll get a letter from the school telling you what to do if you disagree with the exclusion. You can see more via the gov.uk link here. If your child is permanently excluded, your local council must arrange alternative full-time education from the sixth school day. This could be pupil referral unit (PRU): an establishment for children who are unable to attend mainstream school because of their behaviour, illness, or other reasons. You might, alternatively, decide to home educate your child, but this can't be enforced on you.
GetTheRightSchool - 16-Mar-18 @ 1:45 PM
My daughter is in year 11 and has just been permanently excluded and her exams are in may. What is my next step
DB - 15-Mar-18 @ 12:09 AM
My child is year nine and in a referral centre he has been offerd a school which we do not wish to accept , were do we stand
Nobbles - 12-Mar-18 @ 11:21 AM
@Cazzie - Would he not be better in an SEN school? Aren't PRU units for more troubled kids that have been excluded etc. It sounds as though your son needs specialist SEN help.
FayeT - 2-Mar-18 @ 10:30 AM
My son will be 9 near the end of March. He is registered at a mainstream primary school but since the Spring term of year 3 last year, he hasn’t been to school. He has been diagnosed with Selective Mutism, social and separation anxiety and has some autism traits. He hates school, the teachers, adults and has extreme meltdowns whilst there. In year two he had 100% attendance, this dropped to non-attendance in year 3/4. Since last September we have had a private tutor come to the house 2-6 hours per week. I was wondering whether a PRU school would help? In desperation, Cazzie.
Cazzie - 1-Mar-18 @ 5:43 PM
Hi I was wondering is PRU a full time education setting as my son got sent home when his teacher fell ill and I was told to keep him of until his teacher recovers.
Faz - 11-Dec-17 @ 10:33 PM
My grandson is going to be excluded from his high school because of constant disruptive behaviour. I am hoping you can help me find a PRU school in the Norwich Norfolk area he can attend and travel to by bus as we live about 30 minutes out of Norwich. Anxiously awaiting your response.
Desperately Gran - 6-Dec-17 @ 3:50 PM
My son has been going pru because he got permanently? excluded I was wondering if I could move him to a mainstream school before yr9so he can do his GCSEs His behaviour is the is excellent and he has shown repetence of his exclusion he behaves perfectly now but will he be allowed to go back mainstream school before yr9 so he can do his GCSEs
Aw - 14-Jun-17 @ 4:11 PM
my 6 yr old boy has been there for months currently going through the process of having him assessed for ADHD ODD and aspergers
Tammy - 29-Mar-17 @ 4:39 PM
My son of 15 refusespoint blank to go to school can I pull him out and put him in a refers unit
Mary - 23-Mar-17 @ 5:29 PM
My 10 year old grandson has lost his father and been on the child protection register for being exposed to domestic violence. He was excluded from his primary school for behavioural problems and is now in a PRU where he is witness to violence and aggression from other pupils and is restrained by staff at times - how can this be helping him? His behaviour is changing for the worse so that he is not picked on by the other pupils. We have spoken to staff about our concerns and the fact that a teaching assistant seems to picking on him and making inappropriate comments to him but our concerns don't seem to be heeded and it is still going on. Apparently restraint may be used at times to protect him from other children! We have asked for him to be moved back to a mainstream school asap but it looks like our only option will be to take him out of the PRU and home educate him.
Frustrated - 30-Dec-16 @ 9:39 AM
I want to set up a PRU with a few colleagues as we are finding we have so much to offer individually and ,well between us, we have a huge wealth of expertise and knowledge so as to he able to offermore than just "an alrernative provision". My understanding is there is such a huge local demand that we wouldn't even need to go look "far". Does anyone possess any experience of setting something similar up and are willing to share their experience?
PTL - 12-Jun-16 @ 3:48 PM
I have been searching the web for a list of pupil referral units, as it is likely our son will be heading there, possibly in a matter of days. It seems to be the greatest state secret and I am very frustrated. I just want a list of names, addresses and a map. Can you help please? Thank you.
desireepotato - 27-May-16 @ 5:59 PM
CJ - Your Question:
Hi, my nephew is in a PRU based on assessment from his primary school. He had suffered trauma and rather than deal with this in any meaningful way he was labelled by the primary school. I want to understand how to manage his education at the PRU and how to help him get back into mainstream education.

Our Response:
One of the aims of PRU staff is to get as many children as possible back into mainstream education. I can only suggest you/his parent(s) speak directly with your nephew's teachers to see how this can be achieved.
GetTheRightSchool - 24-Feb-16 @ 11:04 AM
Hi, my nephew is in a PRU based on assessment from his primary school.He had suffered trauma and rather than deal with this in any meaningful way he was labelled by the primary school.I want to understand how to manage his education at the PRU and how to help him get back into mainstream education.
CJ - 23-Feb-16 @ 12:15 PM
@louise my child (F14) got sent to linden education centre. Small school, scruffy, and the children aren't nice. Most of them are there for 'excessive bullying' and they are nearly all smokers. Legal highs are bought into school and the language!
Ella - 5-Jan-16 @ 4:50 PM
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